LSU safety Eric Reid has been receiving a lot of positive press over the last few days. His draft stock may have risen faster than that of any other player in all the meaningless mock drafts and big boards we study so intently. There's even talk of Reid having slipped into the first round. Some draftniks might phrase that differently and say he slipped back into the first round where he belonged all along.
The LSU pro day was the only pro day Jason Garrett visited this year, and Eric Reid, who also had a private workout with the Cowboys and was invited to Valley Ranch for a pre-draft visit (nudge, nudge, wink, wink), may have been a player Garrett had his eyes on.
I like Eric Reid as a safety prospect for the Cowboys. I like his ability to play the single high safety in a Tampa 2 scheme. I like his size (6’1", 213); I like his athleticism (top performer at the Combine in the 40 yard dash, vertical jump and broad jump); I like his physicality (91 tackles in 13 games last year) and I like that he’s scheme-versatile and can play both free and strong safety.
If the Cowboys like Reid as much as I do, they should draft him with their first-round pick. And I mean their 18th pick, not some hypothetical-trade-down-scenario pick somewhere in the high 20s or low 30s.
But wouldn’t the Cowboys be giving up too much value by taking Reid that high?
I don’t know. And I don’t care. In the draft, safe picks are usually good picks. String together enough good picks and you’ve built a contender. Get too cute along the way and chances are you'll get a lot of picks wrong.
And who says the Cowboys would be giving up too much value for Reid with the 18th pick anyway?
As fans we often get caught in the value maximization trap. We’re quick to shout "Reach!!!" when a team drafts a player ahead of where some Big Board we found on the internet places the prospect. And we congratulate ourselves for getting "Value" when our team drafts a player lower than where he was slotted on our personal Big Board. Yet the boards we rely on so much are not the boards the teams use to make their draft choices, far from it. We know it, and we will still cry "reach" and "great value" on draft day based on little more than Mel Kiper’s or Mike Mayock’s say-so.
Sometimes GMs get caught in a similar value maximization trap.
Take Jerry Jones for example. In the 1996 draft, the Cowboys were already on the phone with DE Tony Brackens (who was going to be their guy with the 30th pick of the first round) when the Redskins called and offered their 37th and 67th picks for the Cowboys’ 30th. A gain of 165 points on the draft value chart in Dallas’ favor. Jerry Jones jumped at the offer. Later, Jones was heavily criticized for the trade which Jones tried to defend by pointing out the value of the third-rounder the Cowboys received in the trade. But his mistake was that he had fallen into the value maximization trap, which had led him to place value over player quality. In the end, the players chosen with the extra picks didn’t work out well for the Cowboys (Read a more detailed version of the story in the BTB Archives).
The purpose of the draft is not to maximize some hypothetical trade value. The purpose of the draft is to make sure you get the players you want, players that you think will give you the best chance of winning. If you believe you have identified the player that will make the most difference to your team, go get him.
If the Cowboys think Reid is their guy, take him. If they are happy with their safety situation as is, so be it, then get somebody else. But get the guy. Don’t get cute. Don’t get hung up on trade value.
Trade value does not win games.